Germany Seeks Joint Sat Mission with U.S.

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FRANKFURT, Germany — The German space agency, DLR, wants to join forces with NASA to launch two L-band radar Earth observation satellites that would fly in formation much in the same way as Germany’s current X-band radar spacecraft, the agency’s chairman said Dec. 9.

The idea of a joint mission with NASA’s proposed DESDynI — Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice — is one of the cooperation areas set down in an agreement signed Dec. 8 in Washington by DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Woerner and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

The bilateral accord evokes future collaboration in space transportation between the two nations. In an e-mailed response Dec. 9 to Space News questions, Woerner said no specific project was included in this part of the agreement. But he said Germany would look favorably on future cooperation between the two nations’ industries on launch vehicles.

Germany is pushing hard for the European Space Agency (ESA) to agree to full development of a new upper stage for Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket when ESA governments meet in 2012. German industry would have a sizable role in this upper stage, powered by the restartable Vinci engine under development by Snecma Motors of France.

The possibility that this stage might also be suitable for some other vehicle, built in the United States or in Europe, has been raised by numerous industry officials as they seek to secure support for the new investment among ESA nations.

The German government has agreed to a slight increase in Germany’s space budget, now at 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion), in the next two years. Much of this has been earmarked for programs managed inside ESA. But Germany’s new space policy stresses the need for international collaboration beyond ESA, and the need to maintain a German national space effort.

Two flagship satellites for that national effort are the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X radar Earth observation satellites. The two spacecraft have been maneuvered into close formation to map the surface of the Earth in stereo.

The DLR-NASA agreement raises the possibility that a follow-on mission, this time in L-band, should be considered.